ashore, where it burned out, and four destroyers
went down. Five submarines also were destroyed,
one at sea.
Elsewhere on the 8th, a Sangamon Avenger
attacking Port Lyautey Airfield was intercepted by
a Dewoitine D.520. The TBF pilot, Lt. R. M. Jones,
turned into the threat and briefly exchanged
gunfire with the Vichy fighter. Returning to his
mission, Jones bombed a flak battery, which, in
turn, inflicted heavy damage on his Avenger. He
was unable to lower his landing flaps but still
managed a safe landing aboard Sangamon.
Like many carrier pilots, Lt. Hugh “Pedro”
Winters, VF- 9 executive officer, flew three times a
day. Fighting Nine was shoehorned aboard Ranger
with her regular VF- 41, which required some
accommodation. Sailors and aircrews tolerated
the leaky aviation fuel system, which sometimes
leaked of high-octane gasoline.
Winters recalled, “We had three tragic losses
and I watched two of them. The first was my
wingman, Willie Wilhoite. We were strafing Port
Lyautey’s airfield, and I had just exploded a gas
truck between two fighters refueling, and pulling
out I heard Willie call, ‘They got me, Pedro.’ He
glided steeply into the ground. I did a wingover
and went back at ground level on the machine
gun nest and got hit myself, but not seriously.
Lesson learned—never in the heat of rage do a
wingover at close range.
“Next day we were burning some bombers on
another field and Eddie Micha exploded one with
bombs attached just as he passed over at 20 feet
altitude. The blast converted his Wildcat into a
bouncing ball of fire bouncing along the runway.
The loss of Willie, and then Eddie, added some to
my 29 years.”
On the ninth, the French offered far less opposition. Ranger Wildcats led the field, VF- 9 logging
five kills and VF- 41 another near Fedala.
Santee’s VGS- 29 flew antisubmarine patrols off
Safi, the southern landing area down the coast
from Casablanca. During missions supporting
ground forces, two SBDs received AA fire that
wounded a pilot and gunner. Meanwhile, a Santee
TBF was hit by flak and force-landed inland from
Safi. The wounded pilot, Lt. (j.g.) Charles Rodeen,
was captured with his gunner.
The carriers lost six planes that second day of
Armorers on the Santee
reloading the twin .30-caliber
mount on this SBD- 3 for an
upcoming mission. (Photo
courtesy of Stan Piet)